San Diego Cruise Line Fails To Understand Customer Needs
Flagship Cruises Customer Experience Fail
I have written many times about the stupid rules and regulations organizations have that prevent superior customer service. I have also written frequently about the need for commercial operations to truly understand customer needs and for these needs to be fully understood by all staff.
Now I have a new customer experience fail to cite in future writing and speeches, courtesy of Flagship Cruises & Events in San Diego.
Last month we took our daughter to San Diego to celebrate her 9th birthday. A highlight of the 5-day trip was supposed to be a whale watching excursion. Good idea. Bad choice of excursion providers.
After booking the cruise I called the Flagship Cruises customer service line a few days before our trip to enquire if there was any opportunity to do something special for my daughter since we would be going on the cruise on the actual day of her birthday. I was politely told that doing anything extraordinary was too difficult on a public cruise. Oh well, nice try but “too difficult.”
We arrived early on the day of the cruise and spotted a beautiful life preserver ring with the Flagship logo and date of the cruise on it. What a wonderful photo opportunity we thought. But the two Flagship Cruise employees would not allow us beyond their entry rope to take a photo of our daughter with the life preserver.
Instead, as we entered the boarding area a half hour later we were asked to pose next to the life preserver so that they could take a photo of us with their camera! We told our daughter to do so as it was her special day. But when mom and dad tried to take our own photos we were shouted at loudly that such actions were prohibited. And one staff member (Leslie) actually knocked my arm tried to physically block me from taking a photo.
Upon querying her actions we were told the two staff members (Julia was the other young adult staff member) were merely following their boss’s orders. Even after explaining the significance of the date to our daughter, they still refused to make an exception to the rules.
All of which, unfortunately, caused our 9-year old daughter to burst into tears on her birthday!
So, for causing a 9-year old to cry on the morning of her birthday, Leslie and Julia of Flagship Cruises are now enshrined in my Customer Experience Hall of Shame.
Flagship Cruises claims to be a family owned and operated company. But it appears they don’t have a clue about what is important to families and customers celebrating an important life milestone.
Even worse, they promise on their website to “treat you and everyone aboard like family.” They certainly don’t live up to this claim with rigidly enforced rules on photo taking. What kind of a family prevents other family members from taking photos?
After the cruise, I posted a short complaint about our treatment on the Flagship Cruise Facebook page. Here’s the reply I got: “Thanks for reaching out Steven. We’d like to hear more about what happened. Could you please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org?”
I guess “email@example.com” thinks that I need to proactively seek him or her out to further explain my dissatisfaction with their service. And here I was thinking that I am the customer! Well, this Monday Morning Marketing Memo is my further explanation.
At the end of the cruise, the photograph of my daughter taken by the Flagship Cruise staff member was available for purchase at $10. That is not a significant price, especially since it was a lovely photo. But I could not bring myself to buy it for the photo would only serve as a lasting memory of an unfortunate and dissatisfying customer experience.
Interestingly, I have noticed that when my daughter or I talk to others about our San Diego trip we mention the famed San Diego Zoo, the Birch Aquarium, Sonny Jim’s Cave, and the Safari Park. Neither of us speaks of the whale watching excursion and neither of us is recommending this cruise to others.
It just goes to show how a bad customer experience results in the lost opportunity for positive word-of-mouth advertising and social media publicity.
Ironically, the company also states on its website that they are “the best in the business providing San Diego visitors and tourists with experiences they will remember for a lifetime.” Well, I’ll certainly remember my experience with Flagship Cruises for a lifetime, but perhaps not in the way they hope.
There are many customer service lessons to be learned from this experience with Flagship Cruises, which I will discuss in next week’s Monday Morning Marketing Memo.